IO Files: US/A/M(Chr)/116

Minutes of the Twenty-second Meeting of the United States Delegation to the Fourth Regular Session of the General Assembly, New York, October 26, 1949, 9 a. m.


[Here follow a list of persons (41) present and discussion of the Soviet “peace” resolution and the United States–United Kingdom alternative draft (for documentation on this subject, see volume II, pages 72 ff.).]

Ambassador Austin introduced Senator Henry Cabot Lodge to the Delegation. The Senator said that in his position on the Foreign Relations Committee, he had been hearing a great deal about the work of the US Mission and had come to see how it operated. In his view, the big problem in the world today was the question of atomic energy.

Referring back to the substitute Soviet resolution,1 Mr. Hickerson explained that it would not be discussed until the First Committee had completed both Greece and the Italian Colonies. Mr. Compton2 thought that under these circumstances, there would be a real problem of keeping pressure up on this item. Explaining the background of the subject to Senator Lodge, Ambassador Austin said that our substitute resolution was prepared in response to the Soviet’s annual bombshell which, this year, was a combination of threats against the US and the UK, along with a suggestion for peace through a five-power pact. We intended to defeat the Soviet resolution and then put forward a genuine resolution for peace. As for atomic energy, he thought no progress or definite agreement was possible until the settlement of the cold war. Nevertheless, we were studying continuously not only the problem of atomic energy, but also conventional armaments, on both of which there was a phenomenal degree of unanimity except for the Soviets, Mr. Hickerson doubted if we would be able to do much more than explore the subject of atomic energy for quite some time.

Senator Lodge inquired what chances there were for the Soviets to get ahead of us in atomic energy. Ambassador Austin replied that the Senator’s information was as good as that available to the Delegation. [Page 200] Mrs. Rohde3 said she had been informed that a committee of 12 scientists, who had met last week at Princeton with Dr. Einstein,4 had reached the very alarming conclusion that the Soviets might be ahead of the US, and that there was no doubt that they were equally far advanced. This information was confidential, but she had requested her informant to send Ambassador Austin a précis of the conclusions of the meeting. Mrs. Roosevelt5 asked whether this meant the Russians were ahead of us on the scientific level, or in productive capacity. Mrs. Rohde was uncertain but said she had been informed that probably the Soviets had produced a much more powerful bomb which could obliterate all of Manhattan. Mrs. Roosevelt still wondered whether the Soviets had plants which could produce atomic weapons in quantity, and observed that it appeared that as soon as manufacturing facilities or a bomb were completed, they became obsolete. Mr. Hickerson thought probably the scientists meant that the scientific progress of the Soviets was equal to our own. Other information was more reassuring as regards the number of bombs and production facilities which the Soviets could have at the present time. As to whether we could maintain our lead, it depended on the amount of uranium available to the Soviets.

Senator Lodge asked whether any thought had been given to the possibility of making it a crime for a country not to come into the international control scheme. Ambassador Austin said the US was ready to consider any constructive suggestion. Mr. Hickerson pointed out that the permanent Members of the Security Council and Canada, who were the sponsoring powers of the original atomic energy resolution of the GA, were presently consulting on all possibilities for control. Senator Lodge asked whether it was not in fact an act of aggression for a country to fail to join in an international control scheme and to submit itself to an international inspection in atomic matters.

Mr. Hickerson referred to the fact that the AEC plan, largely devised by the United States, had been approved by an overwhelming vote in the GA last year, though it had encountered certain difficulties until Mr. Vishinsky had made a strong speech against it, which had had the result of getting a vote of 40 to 6 endorsing the plan. Of course, we could not always depend on Mr. Vishinsky to irritate the Members of the UN in this way in every case. We took the position that this plan was the only workable plan which had so far been advanced. We thought it would work. Russia was unwilling to accept the [Page 201] plan, the real point of difference being who would own and operate the atomic energy facilities. The US, inconsistently with its free enterprise economy, wanted such ownership to be in the hands of an international authority, and thus would agree to a voluntary limited pooling of sovereignty necessary for this control, while the Russians would not accept anything but national ownership and operation. He believed that if we simply tried to define as an act of aggression the unwillingness of any state to participate in this scheme, support for the plan would be diminished. Mr. Cohen6 agreed that this would be true if we related the act of aggression to this particular plan for control. He thought Senator Lodge’s suggestion interesting. He suggested we might take advantage of the Soviet position of trying to glue world attention on the fact that we were unwilling to join in a declaration under which we would foreswear the use of atomic energy, by using the argument in reverse—that the Soviets were unwilling to follow the majority views. We could thus challenge the Soviets to submit to international control. Of course, there were certain risks in this policy. A great deal could be said, however, for developing some kind of counter-attack to the Soviet line that it was internationally wrong not to foreswear the use of atomic energy. We could put forth the idea that it was internationally wrong not to accept the principles of international control.

Senator Lodge thought there were two choices: we could either drift along as we were doing, or we could decide to bring the matter up at the time which would be best for us, perhaps by giving an ultimatum that by failing to join a control scheme, the Soviets would be aggressors. He believed it was better to have action while we were in the favored position than to wait indefinitely.

Mrs. Rohde referred to one other point which came up at the meeting of the scientists at Princeton. This related to the tactics adopted immediately after the war in the loyalty program, which made it difficult for scientists to remain in government service. Our atomic position had been weakened by the loss of these scientists. She thought this was a point worth taking note of at the present time. Mr. Compton referred to the views of Mr. Lilienthal7 who considered that it was better at this stage, now that Russia had the bomb, for us to review our general policy immediately and to rely less on secrecy and more on scientific advancement. He noted incidentally that there were other scientists who did not share the view that Russia was ahead of the [Page 202] U.S. in this field. Mr. Fahy8 suggested that another possibility growing out of Senator Lodge’s suggestion was to consider a stronger resolution condemning the failure of the Soviets to agree to the international control plan. Such a condemnation might provide stronger pressure on the Soviets to come into the international plan, and at least it would put them in a worst position before world public opinion. It was within the competence of the Assembly to consider some general condemnation of this sort for the Soviet failure to join the majority.

Ambassador Austin referred again to the revised Soviet resolution,9 the text of which he read. Each point in this resolution was a finger directed at the misdeeds of the Soviet Union. The provision dealing with atomic energy rendered more specific the suggestion made by Mr. Fahy. At the same time, it was necessary not to include language which would frighten certain Members. If, for example, we had a proposal that it was an international crime not to join the international control plan, we would upset everything. Mr. Fahy said he was not suggesting we could go that far but that we could simply condemn the Soviets explicitly for failure to join in the international control plan. Ambassador Austin replied that the Soviets would answer that they had offered to join an international control system and would immediately refer to their own proposals. Senator Lodge thought such action as this resolution anticipated could pave the way for a more positive approach in the atomic energy field. Ambassador Austin thanked him for the stimulus of his views on this subject.

Mr. Cohen said that it seemed to him, since we no longer had a monopoly of the bomb, that the reluctance previously evidenced by other Members for going ahead with an international control scheme without the Soviets might have decreased. For that reason, we should re-examine this possibility because, no matter how unsatisfactory a control plan without every state might be, if, under the auspices of the Assembly, a real international system could be set up, even though it involved some crippling of our own independence, we would be in a much more solid position to proceed to deal with the Soviets.

[Here follows discussion of another subject.]

Conventional Armaments (US/A/C.1/1462)10

Mr. Nash referred to the fact that atomic energy was not included in conventional armaments. The CCA had adopted a plan of work [Page 203] defining its jurisdiction in this sense. This was to be found in Annex I of the document before the Delegation. Annex II included the general principles which had been worked out to cover any plan of disarmament. Both annexes had come to the CCA in August, 1948, but, because of Soviet opposition, they had not been transmitted to the SC. For this reason, the second progress report of the CCA had not come before the SC or the GA at its third session.

Mr. Nash recalled that the Third Assembly had adopted a resolution suggesting as a trial balloon that the Commission should develop a plan for a census of effectives and conventional armaments. This would be a spot check. The Commission had taken this matter up as its first order of business. The plan devised had been opposed by the Soviet Union and the Ukraine, but the Soviet Representative this year had withdrawn his objection to transmitting the second progress report and the census proposals to the SC. These two reports had been debated in the SC, at which time they had been opposed by the Soviets on the basis that atomic weapons were not included, and both reports had been vetoed. However, the Soviet Union had not opposed their transmission to the Assembly. These items were before the Ad Hoc Political Committee.

Mr. Nash recommended that the United States support the census and verifications proposals in the GA but indicated that there was no point in going ahead on implementation in view of the opposition of the Soviet Union. The US should also agree that the CCA should go ahead with its plan of work and take up the third item, consideration of practical and effective safeguards in any disarmament plan. We would also like the Assembly to note that the census plans adequately complied with the GA resolution of 1948 and that because of Soviet opposition no implementation was possible. In answer to a question from Mr. Fahy, it was explained that a plan had been developed by the CCA for a verification check of armed forces. It had of course been opposed by the Soviet Union since it would have meant that a UN body would be able to enter the Soviet Union.

Ambassador Austin asked whether there were any objections to the recommended position. Mr. Nash explained that we might ourselves have to sponsor the resolution. This was agreed. Ambassador Austin stated that this decision would be subject to review, if necessary. Mr. Cohen said he had no objection to the position recommended, but wished to record the fact that while he was strongly opposed to anything smacking of unilateral control of armaments, it was greatly to our advantage if at this session or in the future, some sort of organization could be put into operation. This, he thought, would strengthen our position.

  1. Reference is to the draft resolution being prepared by the United States and the United Kingdom as a substitute for the Soviet “peace” resolution.
  2. Dr. Wilson M. Compton, Alternate Member of the United States Delegation; President of the State College of Washington.
  3. Mrs. Ruth Bryan Rohde, Alternate Member of the United States Delegation; Minister to Denmark, 1933–1936.
  4. Professor Albert Einstein, theoretical physicist; discoverer and exponent of the theory of relativity.
  5. Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt, widow of the President; Member of the United States Delegation.
  6. Benjamin V. Cohen, Alternate Member of the United States Delegation; Counselor, Department of State, 1945–1947.
  7. David E. Lilienthal, Chairman of the United States Atomic Energy Commission.
  8. Charles Fahy, Alternate Member of the United States Delegation; Legal Adviser, Department of State, 1946–1947.
  9. See footnote 1, p. 63.
  10. Of October 25, p. 197.